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15 October 2014
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The Night St Paul’s Escaped the Blitz

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Dorothy Parker
Location of story: 
London
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A3957906
Contributed on: 
27 April 2005

It was 28th December 1940. I left home about 7.20am as usual, no idea how I was going to get to the Royal Exchange where I worked. At the station I was told that the railway was OK only as far as Wimbledon, then I’d have to get to Blackfriars, which I’d never been to before.

When I arrived, I knew that St Paul’s was between me and the Royal Exchange, so I looked for the Dome, picking my way round the rubble on the pavements, feeling cold with shock at fresh gaping holes; wardens and first aiders were clambering over heaps of smoky bricks, floorboards and girders.

St Paul’s looked unharmed, but surrounding buildings were certainly sparser and lower than when I’d spent lunch hours eating sandwiches in the gardens of St Paul’s.

Pre-war, roads in London were paved with woodblocks set in tar (lovely smell when they were being repaired!); now the woodblocks on the road between me and my destination were actually aflame. I and the other office workers had to wait as firemen played their hoses on the road for a few minutes, extinguishing the flames, then we would walk forward for a few yards on a very hot surface which we could feel through our shoes, then we’d wait for the next section to be hosed, while the section behind us was ablaze again.

At one place I remember the whole front wall of a five- or six-storey building suddenly collapsing, sending rubble across the road, which we had to negotiate.

As usual those days, I arrived at work about 10am, working hard to catch up, comparing experiences with fellow workers, then leaving at about 4.30 to find a way home ready for our nightly air raid.

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Melita Dennett on behalf of Dorothy Parker with her permission. Dorothy fully understands the site’s terms & conditions.

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The Blitz Category
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